I received an interesting comment pointing me to an article on the website of the Dietitians Association of Australia (update: this has since been removed), all about the Paleo Diet. The four paragraph critique questions whether there is any merit to this way of eating. It concludes that they do not support the diet, as
It excludes nutritious core foods such as breads and cereals, and dairy foods
They are also concerned that
The Paleo Diet encourages restrictive eating – an approach that is not sustainable in the long-term. And by banning certain nutritious foods, followers of the diet will be at a greater risk of falling short on important nutrients, such as calcium. Like many fad diets, the Paleo Diet, is no substitute for expert, individual dietary advice from an Accredited (SIC) Practising Dietitian.
There is a lot of evidence to suggest calcium balance, rather than calcium intake is of crucial importance – something that a paleo diet promotes. Sadly they don’t mention the other nutrients they are concerned about. This would interest me greatly, as when I have tracked my daily diet I have greatly exceeded all of the micro-nutrient RDA’s (except calcium) by eating in this way.
They say Australians should eat a diet with a wide variety of food from all food groups; that meets their health needs; that is sustainable in the long term and that fits in with their lifestyle. This implies that they don’t consider a Paleo diet meets these criteria. I know I'm not alone in finding Paleo is the best diet for my health; very sustainable and fits in easily into my lifestyle. The fact that it is restrictive in not including processed foods and grains, certainly isn't what I’d call restrictive. I don’t consider grains a proper “food group” and I think my diet is far more varied than those who eat from the food pyramid.
Before I let the inaccuracies and complete lack of research and studies bother me further, I had a look at the partners of the Dietitians Association of Australia. It might surprise you to see that their partners include Kelloggs, Nestle, Unilever, Dairy Australia and the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council!
Just to be completely clear, that’s Kelloggs, who make “healthy” high-carb breakfast cereals. Nestle who make drinks, snacks, breakfast foods and confectionery – which for the most part all share grains, sugars and other un-Paleo “foods” in their ingredients lists. Unilever – whose products include margarine and diet meal replacement shakes. I think we can guess which foods Dairy Australia and the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council endorse.
Sadly I think the more popular Paleo becomes, the more we will read stories like this warning about the dangers of a Paleo diet. There just isn't the same degree of money for the food industry in real, unprocessed foods like meat and vegetables.
How can we trust an organisation that has a financial relationship with these partners, to give us true, researched dietary advice? I wonder what would happen to their partnerships if they were to take a different stance on grains?